Review: Not Now, Noor! written by Farhana Islam and illustrated by Nabila Adani

Published by Puffin Books on 16th March

Noor loves her mum, and all the other hijabi women in her family, but wonders why do they wear headscarves?Is it so they can hide snacks for later? Or because they’re a super spy and hiding their secret identity? Full of curiosity, Noor sets out to find her answer, but her family are all busy and have no time to answer this important question. Just as Noor is ready to give up on her quest, her Ammu arrives home and knows just the thing to say.

Not Now, Noor! is a wonderful, heartfelt celebration of Muslim women, of family and of identity which deserves a place in both homes and primary school libraries where its humour, warmth and gorgeous illustrations will delight young readers as they learn about the importance of hijabs.

Noor is curious and full of questions and, whilst she knows what her ammu’s hijab is not, she is determined to learn why the women in her family wear a hijab …

This leads to lots of wonderfully warm-hearted humour as Noor lets her imagination create her own ideas whilst her family are too busy to answer her questions … until her ammu helps her understand the importance of the hijab to Muslim women: a very powerful message of community and identity.

I loved how this story will not only help children learn about the hijab, but it also celebrates curiosity, not being afraid to ask questions and the imagination through the eyes of an inquisitive, quick-witted and observant young girl.

The vibrant illustrations are just stunning and really capture the warmth and humour in the story as well as the closeness of Noor’s loving family.

not now noor

All children deserve to see themselves represented in books and this will not only do this for young Muslim children, but it will also open up conversations for all children which is so important to encourage tolerance, understanding and kindness.

Not Now, Noor! is a funny and heart-warming tale to share with young readers of 3+ who will delight in both the humour and illustrations whilst spending time with a loving Muslim family.

Thank you to Lily Orgill and Puffin Books for sending me a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

April anticipated children’s book releases …

There are so many books I’m looking forward to in April. I have already read a proof copy of The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie and am looking forward to getting the final copy for my class library. Lots of these will be released during my Easter holiday, so I’m definitely going to be enjoying lots of these over that time.

I have taken the synopsis for each of these from the Waterstones website.

Wendington Jones has her world abruptly up-ended when her adventuring mother dies in a car crash in late 1920. Left in the care of her Grandmamma and her valet Rohan, Wendington receives a parcel in the middle of the night, seemingly from her dead mother. It’s half of a manuscript from a book her mother was writing, and describes a mystery surrounding the mythical Tree of Life. When Wendington reads that the tree could have the power to bring her mother back to life, she throws herself into finding the remainder of the manuscript and solving her mother’s mystery. However, her initial attempts are laced with danger. Other people also seek to find the Tree of Life and Wendington has to trick, fight and talk her way out of many perilous situations. Does Wendington have what it takes to complete her mission?

Rowan starts to embrace her gifts as a magical wildsmith who heals and speaks to animals. But saving a young pegasus brings difficult decisions. Danger comes closer than ever, threatening her family and even Rowan’s own life. When she is betrayed, which friends can she trust? With her family divided and war still raging, where does Rowan belong now?

‘Once was, once wasn’t.’ So began the stories Marjan’s father told her as a little girl – tales of mythical beasts that filled her with curiosity and wonder: Griffons. Unicorns. Dragons. But Marjan is not a little girl anymore. After her father’s sudden death, she is trying to hold it all together: her schoolwork, her friendships and her dad’s struggling veterinary practice. But a mysterious visitor soon reveals that Marjan’s father was no ordinary vet. The creatures from his stories are real – and he travelled the world to care for them. Stepping into a secret world hidden in plain sight, where magical creatures are bought and sold, treasured and trapped, Marjan must take her father’s place. The deeper in she gets, the closer she comes to a shocking truth that will put both humans and beasts in terrible danger.

When Delores Mackenzie is chased home by a restless spirit, she is sent to the mysterious Uncles in Edinburgh Old Town to learn how to control her unusual ‘gifts’. Scared and alone, she finds her new home at the Tolbooth Book Store is full of curious surprises: some welcome, others less so. But when a sinister apparition threatens the lives of her strange new housemates, Delores must gather all her strength to save them.

When lonely Vincent is forced to go on an outdoor activity weekend with three other kids from his class, he’s counting the seconds until he can escape home. But one of his classmates is hiding a secret: she’s convinced there’s pirate treasure buried deep within a nearby mountain. Suddenly, this boring trip becomes an exciting adventure! But a thief is hot on the trail, intent on stealing the loot for themselves… can the Treasure Hunters work together to stop them?

A tense, page-turning story that sensitively deals with themes of family upheaval and kleptomania.  Ren’s family lose their home in a fire. They’re living with her grandmother now and things are a bit tense.  Ren lost her collection of things, her clothes; her brother lost his little bear and is inconsolable. So Ren starts replacing things with other people’s possessions. They’ve got loads of stuff, after all.  But she gets caught and has to strike a terrifying deal to avoid detection…

All legends start somewhere . . . After defeating the evil Grendilock and saving Cadno, the last firefox, Charlie Challinor is looking forward to a well-earned rest. But when a familiar face appears from the realm of Fargone, Charlie’s family is once again swept up into adventure. Along with Lippy, Roo and new magical friend Blodyn, Charlie must travel to Fargone to face the dreaded Draig, the shadowy monster that is slowly draining the life from the land – and uncover the lost secret that links Draig’s history to Charlie’s own.

Flick is a magician who needs answers. Her father is still missing, and top illusionist the Great Fox doesn’t seem interested in finding him, despite his promises. Meanwhile, she and her friend Charlie must represent the Great Fox in a new competition in the Swiss town of Linth. The Global Order of Magic is electing a new chancellor, and the Fox insists that if he wins, it will help – but Flick isn’t so sure. Determined to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance and of The Bell System, his greatest and most mysterious magic trick, Flick must pull off an impossible diamond heist to win. But danger lurks around every corner, and nothing is what it seems.

It’s not easy being a Remarkable in the Unremarkable world. Some things are cool – like getting a pet hellhound for your twelfth birthday. Others, not so much – like not being trusted to learn magic because you might use it to take revenge on an annoying neighbour. All Nic Blake wants is to be a powerful Manifestor like her dad. But before she has a chance to convince him to teach her the gift, a series of shocking revelations and terrifying events launch Nic and two friends on a hunt for a powerful magic tool she’s never heard of… to save her father from imprisonment for a crime she refuses to believe he committed.

Shaman by name and shaman by nature – Billy just hasn’t found his magic … yet. His selfish, globetrotting parents abandon him for yet another summer in Charles Darwin’s strange, museum-like house, where Billy stumbles across a 200-year-old giant talking tortoise named Charles Darwin, by the famous man himself. Charles D, the tortoise, knows every inch of the house and every artefact in it, and he’s keen to help Billy realise his powers and set him on the path to adventure. A beautifully carved Inuit ivory necklace is the first object that whisks him back in time to the shrieking chaos of an Arctic blizzard to meet its rightful owner, a girl called Ahnah, her shape-shifting grandmother and the mysterious explorer Pytheas.

Skandar Smith has achieved his dream to train as a unicorn rider. But as Skandar and his friends enter their second year at the Eyrie, a new threat arises. Immortal wild unicorns are somehow being killed, a prophecy warns of terrible danger, and elemental destruction begins to ravage the Island.  Meanwhile, Skandar’s sister, Kenna, longs to join him – and Skandar is determined to help her, no matter what. As the storm gathers, can Skandar discover how to stop the Island tearing itself apart – before it’s too late for them all?

After the defeat of her cruel father, Emba Oak’s nights are haunted by strange dreams with beckoning dragons calling her to faraway mountain peaks. With an ever-flowing stream of questions about her nature, her dragon fire and fury, Emba knows she must go. But can Emba control the growing powers inside her or will everything fall apart along the way?

There’s an egg snatcher in Aves Wood – the Twitchers are on the case! It’s spring, and Aves Wood is alive with migrating birds returning to build their nests. But eggs are going missing. Could someone be stealing from the nests of the wild birds? Horrified, the birdwatching detectives set up a stakeout, patrolling the woods to protect the nesting birds and hunting down the despicable egg thief. But the Twitchers are soon caught in their own trap. Can they work together to prove their innocence and catch the real criminal before any more birds get hurt?

A boy and a bear meet, become friends and have the adventure of their lives! The fourth thrilling adventure set in a fictional Sri Lanka is jam-packed with peril, thieves and a Nuwan works at the library, delivering books. One day, he accidentally takes away a very valuable key that’s been hidden inside one of the books, and in the process thwarts the plans of some very dangerous thieves. On the run, he hides in a cave, only to discover in the middle of the night that he is sharing it with a big, hairy, terrifying bear! After some hair-raising moments, he and the bear reach an understanding and they travel on together, evading the bad guys and hoping the key will unlock the answers to the mystery so that they can stop running and return home…

Samia, Ava and Frankie are thrilled to win a whirlwind trip of European capital cities. But when the Euro Metro rumbles through the night to their first destination and shots are fired, it becomes crystal clear that this is no ordinary school trip.  Their enigmatic chaperone, Miss Watson, is forced to admit that the children are being used as cover for a spying mission. Her colleague in M16 has vanished-presumed dead-and has left behind a trail of cryptic clues leading to vital information.  On their arrival in Paris, Samia, Ava and Frankie are catapulted into a world of art, espionage and terrible danger. Can the children solve the fiendish clues hidden on famous European landmarks and avoid the scary strangers who are stalking their every move?

When Lark’s mum takes her family with her on a research trip to Cambodia, Lark never expects that she’ll end up stranded on a deserted island! But that’s exactly what happens when her boat is shipwrecked. With her only companion a baby gibbon, Lark faces many dangers – brutal storms, scorching sunshine and jellyfish-infested waters. And with dwindling food and water, she must make a plan to find her way off the island before it’s too late…

Do any of these catch your interest? What are your most anticipated books for April? 

WWW Wednesday

I’m almost finished Into Goblyn Wood which I’m really loving! Hazel is such a fantastic character, not knowing what she is, but being the help the fairies need. I love the distinction between the fairies and the fae – a really magical adventure.

I’ve finished the audiobook of Pages & Co: The Book Smugglers. I enjoyed Tilly and Milo’s adventure into Oz and their meetings with The Railway Children and the wonderful Anne of Green Gables. This one had a real edge of peril, and the ending definitely makes me want to pick up the next one – which is waiting on my bookshelf. I read Fairy Hill in one sitting and absolutely loved it. I am a huge fan of the fae in stories and this one didn’t disappoint. I loved that it was set in rural Ireland and had fairy rings and changelings. I loved how close Anna became to her little stepbrother and how protective she was of him. I also read The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie which is a brilliantly dark and gothic adventure due for release in April. I have posted my review.

I have the audiobook of The Arctic Railway Assassin to listen to next, and I’m hoping to read a physical copy of On Wings to the Stars which sounds like a poignant read.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie by Yvonne Banham

Written by  Yvonne Banham
Cover Illustration by Nathan Collins
Published by Firefly Press

The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie is a deliciously dark, spine-tingling, supernatural adventure that completely enthralled me.    

When twelve-year-old Delores Mackenzie is chased along the causeway linking Cramond Island to the Scottish mainland by a Bòcan – an angry spirit intent on harming her – her older sister Delilah, helps her to keep it out of their home, a home that they share without their parents who have disappeared a year before, leaving just a note for their daughters.

Delores comes from a family with supernatural abilities and, when her sister is assigned a position with the Psychic Adjustment Society in Norway, Delores finds herself unwillingly sent to stay with the mysterious Uncles in Edinburgh Old Town.  Under their tutelage, she is to learn to control her dark and dangerous gift – necromancy – so that she doesn’t risk allowing spirits drawn to her energy to return to the living plane. 

On entering the Tolbooth Book Store where she is to both live and learn, Delores meets two others with paranormal abilities:  Prudence, an illusionist, who is rude, sarcastic and unfriendly; and, Gabriel, a seer, who is more welcoming.  Sitting down for dinner with the Uncles Oddvar and Solas, and Gabriel and Prudence, Delores is subjected to some real nastiness from Prudence but, when she is in danger of getting hurt, she gets help from an unexpected source:  the spirit of a young girl who gives her a warning before disappearing. 

And so begins a dark, tense and spine-tingling mystery as Delores fights to stop a truly terrifying spirit from returning to the living plane, a spirit who feeds on Delores’s energy, who has unfinished business with another, and who needs something that Delores has to anchor her in this world.  When the lives of new friends are threatened, will Delores have the courage and strength to save them, and herself, from this sinister apparition?  Does she really have the ability to push back the dead when they threaten the living?

Oh my goodness!  This was a brilliantly dark and spooky read that sent shivers down my spine as I became completely gripped by the mystery and the race to save friends before they were lost forever.  I loved the unexpected twists and turns, the danger and threat from both spectres and the Council which oversees the Paranormals.  This is a world that I am eager to return to, so I really hope there is more to come from Delores Mackenzie! 

The setting is just perfect for this gothic delight and the writing conveys the tense, eerie atmosphere, with its danger and threat, exceptionally:  the bookstore overlooking the kirkyard, the underground vaults and Edinburgh Old Town with its ghostly, gory history not to mention the hoar frost, cobwebs, spiders and dolls – chilling and spinetingling, perfect for upper middle-grade and beyond.  I have lots of children in my Year 6 class who are looking for books with a darker edge, and this is exactly the kind of book that will appeal.

Delores is a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist who is determined to help a young friend when she most needs it.  She shows courage and strength in standing up for herself, in learning to control her abilities and in facing a malevolent spirit.   She is looking for a place where she feels she belongs and where she can find real friendship with those who understand her. And I just have to mention Bartleby who I adored – grumpy, rude but with a heart of gold and a sweet tooth! 

This is a must-read for those of 10+ who enjoy darker, spookier adventures that are guaranteed to bring shivers of delight – and just the right amount of fright!

Thank you for Firefly Press for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere by Ruth Lauren

Written by  Ruth Lauren
Illustrations by Sharon King-Chai
Published by Little Tiger

Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere is an exhilarating and action-packed magical adventure that completely captivated me.

Twelve-year-old Tourmaline makes a terrible discovery when she is eavesdropping on two of her professors at Pellavere University:  her mother, Persephone, has gone missing whilst on an archaeological hunt for a mysterious artefact on behalf of the university.  And even worse – no-one knows where she is and no rescue party will be sent!  Tourmaline has no intention of leaving her mother to her fate, and determines to find her with help from her best friend George and her new acquaintance, Mia who has newly arrived at the university with her mother.

After breaking into Persephone’s office, the children find a note in her mother’s handwriting which gives them both a warning and a clue as to where to start their search …. The Living Archives, a secret library within the university …

And so begins an exciting, action-packed adventure as the children find themselves in possession of a map which they hope will lead to Tourmaline’s mother on a hidden island, but first they have to find their way to the sea, and what better way than as stowaways aboard a ship, The Hunter?  Their plans go somewhat awry when they discover just who crews the ship:  a band of female pirates and rogue artefact hunters, who are also intent on finding the Island of Elsewhere.  Will Tourmaline be able to outwit the hunters and be the first to reach the island?  Can she overcome the many obstacles that are thrown in her way as she races to save her mother?   

I think that the world might be better with a little magic in it.

I loved the gripping twists and turns, and the brilliantly unexpected revelations, that kept me eagerly turning pages as I was never sure quite what was going to happen next.  The world-building is wonderful and so imaginative:  a magical, sentient island with talking trees, protective and dangerous nature and tricksy mazes that made this such a thrilling and enjoyable read. 

Tourmaline is a real gem of a character:  determined, strong, courageous and with a natural curiosity that propels her into an incredible adventure.  She is protective of her best friend, George, who is more nervous and anxious and keen to follow the rules.  But, when Tourmaline needs him, he proves himself to be a loyal and brave friend.  I also enjoyed the ups and downs of the relationship between Mai and Tourmaline as they build trust and friendship.

This is the most wonderful, magical adventure, filled with friendship, danger and discovery, perfect for readers of 9+ who, I have no doubt, will be eagerly waiting for Tourmaline’s next adventure – just as much as I am!

Thank you to Little Tiger Books for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently listening to Pages & Co: The Book Smugglers. I’m really enjoying being back with Tilly and Milo as they are trying to save family members after they’ve been poisoned by books. They have wandered into The Wizard of Oz to try to find answers to save them. I’m looking forward to where this is heading, and am intrigued by both the Botanist and the Alchemist! I imagine that a lot of children growing up in Ireland read and loved Under the Hawthorn Tree (set during the Irish Famine) so I absolutely had to get a copy of Fairy Hill by the same author. I’ve just started it this evening and just know that it’s one I’m going to love. Anna’s mother has just got married and, whilst she is on honeymoon, Anna is sent to stay for a month with her father, his girlfriend and her young half-brother in the west of Ireland. There’s although wonderfully mysterious vibes!

I’ve finished listening to the audiobook of The Mapmakers. I really enjoyed Cordelia’s determination to find her father as she uncovers a secret society of Mapmakers. There was plenty of danger and surprises in this, and I loved the friendships. I also read Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere which I really liked, and will hopefully be posting my review tomorrow. It’s taken me a while to read Valentine Crow and Mr Death but I’ve now finished it – and it was brilliant! I really, really liked the Mort vibes, the humour and the illustrations. Valentine Crow’s life after leaving the Foundling Hospital takes a rather drastic turn when he is accidentally apprenticed to Mr Death rather than Mr Dearth – but paperwork is paperwork! It is not long before he is harvesting souls to be returned via the library to the Always so that they can be re-born. When he saves his best friend Philomena from her own scheduled death, things don’t turn out quite as expected … there is so much warmth and humour in this – just a fantastic read! I’ve just finished The Beast and the Bethany: Battle of the Beast which was such a quick read – and so much fun. Surely it can’t be possible that the Beast has turned good? I loved finding out whether it would get up to old tricks. The ending definitely makes me want to read the next book!

I’m hoping to read The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores MacKenzie next.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Blog Tour: Circus Maximus: Rider of the Storm

Written by  Annelise Gray
Cover Illustration by Levente Szabo
Published by Zephyr Books

I have absolutely loved following Dido’s thrilling adventures in the Circus Maximus series, first in Race to the Death, then Rivals on the Track and now Rider of the Storm:  a heart-pounding, action-packed adventure with an unforgettable heroine fighting for those she loves in the most dangerous race of her life. 

Dido is no longer racing on the tracks of the Circus Maximus, but is helping train horses with Scorpus and Parmenion.  When bringing their horses in to shelter from a storm, she hears the sound of an animal in distress and, despite the danger, goes to find it. She discovers a wild young black stallion, who reminds her of her beloved Porcellus, and offers to train him.  Ghost may seem untrainable but, whilst others may be ready to give up on him, Dido persists as she understands that he has been hurt and her deep love for animals pushes her to keep trying, but will he prove even too much for Dido?

Whilst Did0 feels like she is stagnating at her uncle’s stables, her cousin Abibaal has gone to Rome – against his father’s wishes – to follow his dreams of racing in the Circus Maximus.  But when news arrives that Abibaal has been recruited to race for emperor Caligula’s Greens faction, Dido feels betrayed as the emperor is her greatest enemy.  Despite this, she loves her family and is not prepared to let the emperor destroy her cousin, so she sets out to save him …

And so begins Dido’s most dangerous mission as she finds herself back in the Circus Maximus, intent on saving both her uncle and his son by reuniting them.  Will Dido be able to pull Abibaal from the clutches of the emperor before he destroys him?  Will she be able to keep one step ahead of her enemy, or will she be caught up in his games?  And will she find herself, once more, racing for her life in the Circus Maximus?

In this adventure, I was given more insight into the nature of emperor Caligula and I really felt the tension and unpredictability each time he appears.  There is something quite terrifying in his childish petulance           (coupled with fear of thunderstorms and love of dressing up and playing games); in his need to exert absolute control; in his God-complex; and, the cruel treatment of his charioteers who fall out of favour. 

Life is too short to live in the shadows …

Dido is a truly awe-inspiring protagonist with an indomitable spirit, someone who shows incredible strength and courage in facing her enemies, in healing divisions within her family and in realising what is truly important in life, even when this means making sacrifices and putting herself in danger.  Dido doesn’t give up on either the people or animals she loves as she fights to save both.  I really liked that Dido learns more about her mother and what happened to her through meeting her mother’s former employer, a circus acrobat who encourages Dido to follow in her mother’s footsteps; that she reunites with her friend, Helvia who is such a strong, successful, female in a male-dominated world; and, I adored the deep bonds of family and friendship that she has formed with Scorpus and Parmenion.

Circus Maximus:  Rider of the Storm is a thrilling, action-packed, epic adventure, oscillating between excitement, danger and tension, and the heartfelt bonds between family and friends. An utterly gripping, edge-of-your-seat, unputdownable adventure for readers of 9+.

Annelise Gray (credit E.A. Dineley)

Annelise Gray was born in Bermuda and moved to the UK as a child. She grew up riding horses and dreaming of becoming a writer. After gaining a PhD in Classics from Cambridge, she worked as a researcher for authors and TV companies on topics as varied as Helen of Troy, Russian princesses and the history of labradors. She’s previously published a history of the women of the Roman Empire and a crime novel set in the Roman Republic. Annelise’s debut children’s novel, Circus Maximus: Race to the Death, was published by Zephyr in 2021 and longlisted for the Branford Boase Award and Rivals on the Track in 2022. Annelise lives with her husband in Dorset where she teaches Latin.

Find out more at: 

Twitter: @AnneliseGray

Thank you so much to Laura Smythe and Zephyr Books for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour and for providing me with a copy of Rider of the Storm in exchange for my honest opinion.

Please do check out the other posts on the Blog Tour:

Blog Tour: The Spectaculars

Written by Jodie Garnish
Cover Illustration, map and chapter head illustrations by Nathan Collins
Published by Usborne

The Spectaculars is a spectacularly dazzling showstopper of an adventure:  thrilling, magical and mesmerising. 

Eleven-year-old Harper Woolfe is living in the Smoke in the almost deserted, rundown Theatre Borough with her mum, a mechanic, who runs a Fix-It Shop.  She has little recollection of the first six years of her life, a life before a terrible tram accident in which she lost her father.  Imagine her surprise when she is shoved into a flying canoe, and sees a blue-haired boy who her mother has always told her is just an imaginary friend.  As her memories return, she learns that she is a Spectacular:  a magical performer gifted with special powers from starlight and stardust, one of a group who were forced to leave the Smoke and seek a new home in the Hidden Peaks, a refuge from persecution for magical people.

The Spectaculars have been looking for Harper for the last five years, and have come to offer her an apprenticeship at the Grand Wondria Music Hall and Theatre, a travelling theatre and boarding school.  With her mother’s encouragement, Harper is excited to begin a new life in the hope that she will no longer feel so alone …

But it is not long before she finds herself, alongside her friends Trick and Thief, on a mission to save her school as it is threatened by superstition and a terrifying creature which is not meant to exist.  Could Harper be responsible for bringing the ill-luck that has beset the Wondria?  Could the Four Curses – Death, Discord, Malady and Misfortune – be more than just a children’s rhyme and have they returned to torment the theatres? 

Oh my goodness!  If ever there was an adventure to bring the house down, then this is it, and I’m just so excited that there is going to be an encore!  I was completely gripped by the frisson of excitement and danger, the revelations and the unexpected twists that left me open-mouthed. Be prepared to be shocked and surprised, astounded and amazed, as you venture with the Wondria through the Hidden Peaks, seeking to solve a mystery with Harper and her friends.

The world-building is breath-taking and a real explosion of imaginative delights!  And there’s an intricate and gorgeous map!  I loved that the Wondria converts to a tram as it travels around the different districts of the Hidden Peaks putting on spectacularly effervescent performances for its magical patrons, including fae, witches and kobolds as well as other Spectaculars.  The onstage performances are enhanced by the performers use of Star-Stuff which allows them to duet with their own reflection, transform their appearance when acting and so much more.  This is the Theatrics branch of Spectacular magic, but there is also the behind-the-scenes Mechanics branch which allows Spectaculars to create magical lighting, costumes and objects.  I loved that there is a real appreciation of the whole theatrical experience which feels joyous and such an integral part of the story. 

This adventure has the most wonderful cast of characters from the tea-loving, kind-hearted Chief Spectacular, Fletcher to the shape-shifting kobold Helja and Lori (who I won’t say anything else about!) but who I’m desperate to find out more about (maybe in the next book!). 

Harper is a wonderful protagonist:  bold, clever, determined and courageous in facing her fears.  She has a love for the Mechanics branch of Spectacular magic and proves to be a talented apprentice.  She forms a close friendship with both Trick and Thief, working together as a team when trying to save the Wondria.  She is not scared to break the rules and fight with her heart when she is angered by the treatment of others.

The Spectaculars is a sparkling, enchanting adventure which celebrates the magic and wonder of the theatre, perfect for readers of 9+.

Author Information: Jodie Garnish

Jodie Garnish is a playwright and performer, usually based in London. She studied Drama at the University of East Anglia before going on to train at Drama Studio London. She has had plays produced at various London theatres and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which were critically acclaimed. Her career as a performer, including in shows designed for young people, has allowed her to shape the world of The Spectaculars, as well as giving her good insight into what young people love.



Thank you so much to Kaleidoscopic Tours for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour, and to Usborne for providing me with a copy of The Spectaculars in exchange for my honest opinion.

Do check out the other stops on this week’s Blog Tour below:

WWW Wednesday

I’ve managed to find time in the evening to continue Valentine Crow and Mr Death which I’m really enjoying even though its taking me a lot longer to read than usual for me. I’m listening to The Mapmakers which is read by the author. I’m really enjoying Cordelia’s next adventure which has some great twists!

I finished reading Moonflight which has definitely joined my list of favourite books. It’s my absolute favourite kind of read: epic quest fantasy with brave heroes in a goof versus evil battle. Absolutely brilliant. I’m hoping to post my review soon. I also read Woodwitch which I thought was even better than the first. I have posted my review earlier in the week. I also read Circus Maximus: Rider of the Storm which completely blew me away – such an engrossing and powerful story. Like Moonflight, this one had me getting up to read it before going to work. I will be posting my review next week.

I’m hoping to pick up Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere next.

What are you reading? Have you read any of these?

Review: Woodwitch

Written by  Skye McKenna
Cover Illustration by Saara Katariina Söderlund
Interior Illustrations by Tomislav Tomic
Published by Welbeck Publishing

I absolutely adored Hedgewitch so was eager to return to this magical world in Woodwitch to join Cassie and her friends on their next exciting adventure and, oh my goodness, I absolutely loved it:  spellbinding, charming and a dazzling delight from start to finish.

13-year-old Cassie Morgan is settling into her new home at Hartwood Hall with her Aunt Miranda who is also the Hedgewitch, responsible for protecting the villagers of Hedgely from the threat of faeries crossing from the Hedge, a wooded border between England and Faerie.  She is also the Coven Mistress who runs the Coven where Cassie and her friends are earning their badges to become fully qualified witches.

When the friends find one of the villagers acting strangely, desperately searching for something, they realise that he has been enchanted, and use their witchcraft skills to lift the spell, sending a dark shadow creeping back into the forest.  Before long another villager becomes enchanted … and another …

Just when it seems that danger has come to the village, the Hedgewitch is summoned to give evidence at the trial of a warlock, leaving Cassie to look after her younger cousin, Sebastian, who has been sent by his father to stay with them.  Sebastian does not want to stay at Hartwood Hall, dislikes witches and prefers science and technology to the supernatural.  Whilst he does not believe in any threat from Faeries, Cassie disagrees.  Fearing that more harm may come to the villagers, Oak Patrol decide to investigate …

And so begins a brilliantly exciting, action-packed adventure as Cassie and her friends discover that one of the Erl King’s minions is seeking an ancient and dangerous faery relic hidden somewhere in the village.  They must venture into the Hedge to seek answers, unearth secrets and discover who is friend and who foe as they are drawn into a perilous race to find the weapon before the Erl King can use it against the human world.  Anticipation and tension are built perfectly as the plot unfolds, taking me on an exciting journey that I didn’t want to end. 

I loved that familiar Faery characters returned in this adventure as well as some new ones, especially the ancient Watchers and some intent on causing harm through trickery and deception.  The world-building is incredible and captivating, drawing me into the quaint village of Hedgely with its close community, acceptance of magic and reliance on the Hedgewitch as protector.  I loved the use of herblore, the awe and wonder in nature and the vivid descriptions of what lies within the Hedge, encapsulating both darkness and light.

It was just wonderful to be spending time with Cassie and her friends again – not to mention their familiars, especially Montague!  Cassie, Rue and Tabitha have such a strong and close bond of friendship, always supportive of each other and working as a team.  They are learning the skills of witchcraft through working to achieve a range of badges:  I loved that they are earning their Woodwitch badge which was one Cassie found in her mother’s Handbook.  Cassie is a determined, curious and courageous young girl, but what I think really shines through is her kindness and ability to empathise with, listen to and help others.  She understands the importance of belonging, of finding a home, family and love and, whilst she is still determined to find her mother, she feels that she has a home and family at Hartwood Hall, allowing her to empathise with both Sebastian and Ivy – and another! 

As well as the mission to stop the ancient faery relic falling into the hands of the Erl King, Cassie continues to find out more of her mother’s story, and I really enjoyed how these two threads were linked as the story unfolded, and cannot wait to see how it is continued in Cassie’s next adventure, especially after the discoveries in this one!

Woodwitch is a mesmerising, magical adventure, brimming with friendship, mystery and nature, that is guaranteed to enchant young adventurers of 9+.

Thank you to Welbeck Children’s Books for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.